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— September 3, 2013 —

Living with a Deaf Bully
by Caroline Bodnar

My boyfriend Chris and I spent several months and a lot of patience acclimating our 2 male dogs (Louie, a 20 pound spaniel and Kaiser, a 75 pound shepherd) to living harmoniously together. Then we got the bright idea to get a third dog.

At the end of May, K9 4 KEEPS took a little deaf white pit bull mix into the rescue family. Chris and I fell in love with her sweet squishy face and silly little flop-forward ears. When we brought her for a sleepover and our boys loved her, we named her Gypsy and the rest was history.

If you’ve ever spent any time with a bully breed or bully mix, you probably know how stubborn they can be. Pair this with the inability to hear and we’ve found we have quite a little stinker on our hands. Good thing she’s the snuggliest, sweetest, cutest thing in America.

We named the little terror Gypsy but we nearly always refer to her as White Fang. Not that she can hear what we call her, anyway. Gypsy knows some hand signs, like sit and down. These work nicely if she’s looking at you.

Gypsy’s favorite pastimes are napping, disassembling the pantry door to get to the trash, and stealing socks and underwear out of the laundry. Calling “Leave it!” or “No!” are entirely ineffective when she’s getting into things across the apartment. We’ve both become accustomed to jumping up at the first sign of naughtiness so we can run over and correct her with a touch. She always acts shocked, as if she had no idea we were sitting 10 feet away watching this go down.

Once she gets ahold of a prized piece of laundry, she is not interested in giving it up. There’s that bully stubbornness. Teaching her “out” is trickier than it is with a hearing dog. It is totally doable; just trickier.

Gypsy is not a morning person. I can totally relate. Louie and Kaiser always jump up and are eager to get their leashes on for 7am potty. Gypsy, on the other hand, is either dead asleep under the covers and has no idea it’s potty time, or is nicely nested into the down comforter, giving me a stare that says “Yeah, right.” I usually have to put her leash on while she’s in bed and then start walking to the door holding the leash. Some mornings are easier than others.

We couldn’t imagine life without our princess. (Well, we could imagine it. We would have fewer broken headphones and fewer holes in our t-shirts, but also a lot less love and not nearly as many laughs.) Living with a deaf dog is a challenge, but one we are happy to face head on.

We have an electronic remote collar that we often put on her to use the vibrate function. She knows vibrate means “Come find me for a treat.”

Gypsy is a social butterfly. She loves other dogs and loves play group at Bark Avenue Playcare. She also loves people and is extremely affectionate and friendly. We know she will make an outstanding therapy dog and we plan to take her through training to get her certified. I think it would be incredible to have her visit and interact with children who are deaf or have other disabilities.

All humor aside, deaf dogs are just as trainable as their hearing counterparts, just with a little creativity and extra effort. Don’t overlook a deaf dog the next time you are looking to add a new furball to your family!

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